Agnon's Moonstruck Lovers

The Song of Songs in Israeli Culture

Ilana Pardes

  • Published: January 2014
  • Subject Listing: Jewish Studies, Literary Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 216 pp., 15 illus., appendix, notes, bibliog., index, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World
  • Series: Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies
  • Contents

Agnon's Moonstruck Lovers explores the response of Israel’s Nobel laureate S. Y. Agnon to the privileged position of the Song of Songs in Israeli culture. Standing at a unique crossroads between religion and secularism, Agnon probes the paradoxes and ambiguities of the Zionist hermeneutic project. In adopting the Song, Zionist interpreters sought to return to the erotic, pastoral landscapes of biblical times. Their quest for a new, uplifting, secular literalism, however, could not efface the haunting impact of allegorical configurations of love. With superb irony, Agnon's tales recast Israeli biblicism as a peculiar chapter within the ever-surprising history of biblical exegesis.

Ilana Pardes is professor of comparative literature at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

“Presenting a brilliant reading of S. Y. Agnon’s biblical exegesis, Ilana Pardes offers numerous new insights into the work of one of the most significant writers of Jewish modernity. Tying Agnon’s immersion in the Bible to Zionism, Pardes’s book simultaneously reconsiders the history and culture of Jewish nationalism and its ideologies and practices. Agnon’s Moonstruck Lovers is an essential contribution to our understanding of modern Jewish culture and of modernism’s relationship to the Bible.” –Amir Eshel, author of Futurity

“This new study confirms Ilana Pardes as one of the most deeply interesting scholars in the field of comparative literature.” —Robert Alter, University of California, Berkeley

1 Introduction
Upon the Handles of the Lock

2 The Song of Songs as Cultural Text
From the European Enlightenment to Israeli Biblicism

3 Rechnitz’s Botany of Love
The Song of Seaweed

4 The Biblical Ethnographies of “Edo and Enam”
and the Quest for the Ultimate Song